As we approach the end of Mental Health Awareness Week, I have been weighing up whether or not to write this blog. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to write or talk about, and I guess that’s why it has always been shrouded in secrecy. A broken leg or my recent gall bladder op, they’re no big deal, but depression or anxiety, or a multitude of other conditions are kept hush-hush and under wraps. Why? Is it the word mental? Do people assume that means you’re crazy? I suspect that is part of it. When I told my GP that I struggled to accept the fact that I need anti-depressants to get through the day, she pointed out that having been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as a child, she needs insulin to get through the day, and what’s the difference? She had me. I couldn’t think of a single reason why my situation was different from hers. It’s simply a chemical imbalance in my brain, and if I need to take something to correct it, so what?
That all sounds very simple, and as long as life coasts along, it is. However when you live an incredibly stressful life, as most autism families do, it takes very little to tip you over the edge. When that happens, it can feel like you’re drowning or sinking in quicksand. A few months back, I wrote a poem. It’s awful – very childlike in style & not likely to win any prizes, but it was simply how I was feeling at the time. I posted it on my blog page, because I felt that putting it out there would be cathartic, but I purposefully didn’t share it on Facebook as I wasn’t ready to share my thoughts with friends and family, but I’ve taken my brave pills, so here goes.
Falling through the cracks
When bad days are the norm, and the good ones so rare
You can feel yourself breaking, but does anyone care?
Exhaustion is seeping from every pore
It’s like swimming in treacle, you can’t give any more.
Cracks getting bigger, bigger than you,
Doing all that you can to stop falling through.
Love keeps you going, but for how long
When’s life has no joy and you heart’s lost its song.
Told you it was rubbish. Don McLean said it so much better in Vincent, but it’s incredibly personal, and I’m sharing to show others who may be feeling this way, that you are not on your own. If I didn’t have Alex and Tom, there are days when I wouldn’t get out of bed. Self-service checkouts are just the ticket when you can’t be bothered talking to anyone, and home delivery even better when leaving the house is impossible. Family events, parties, even funerals – you name it, I’ve dodged it. Some people smoke or drink, I eat. Then you get mad at yourself, and you eat more. It’s a vicious cycle, but it’s one I’m determined to break. My recent health scare and subsequent stay in hospital had such a massive impact on our family, and I can’t risk that happening again. I’m saying that now because I’m thinking clearly, but who knows what the coming days or weeks will bring? When that fog descends, or as some people say, the black dog comes to visit. I can only take one day at a time.
Throwing Tom’s autism into the mix has added another dimension to our lives, one that has tested me to my absolute limits, but I’m still here. Some days I’m stronger than I would ever think possible, some days not, but I’m still here. If you’ve made it to the end of this blog, thank you. If you can relate, either about yourself or someone you know, please please talk about it. It’s more common than you think, and the sooner we shake off the stigma, the better.